Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dentists Again?

How do I keep coming back to dentistry? The relationship between my writing and a root canal, isn't really a correlation I care to examine too closely. Still, I found myself reclining in that oh so comfortable chair and I'll be damned if I didn't find something writing related to talk about.

You know I'm a big fan of criticism. I tout the wonders of critical feedback repeatedly. But I'm going to spin the tables here a touch and talk about the dark, ugly, un-helpful side of critique. . . and dentistry.

So while my hygienist is torturing...er cleaning my teeth. She engages in the classic dental industry chit-chat. But when she asks what I've been doing since our last session, I mention the writing. Silence. I realize my mouth is enjoying a sweet reprieve and I look questioningly at her.

She's taken the tools out and set them down, and she's staring at me.

Weird, I think. I broke her. But she starts to talk again, apparently forgetting the cleaning. What do I write, am I published, really????

Okay, so they train them to act interested, I understand that, but my hygienist was more than interested, she was excited. Turns out, she's always wanted to write a novel....hmmmmmmmm. You see, you never know who's a closet author.

I encourage her. You should definitely write one. She reveals to me, in hushed whispers that she already has the stories, lots of stories, more than twenty. I'm starting to feel a kinship when she breaks the trance.

She shakes her head and gives me a self-conscious laugh. But, no. I can't write. I tell her anybody can write. (should I be making it sound more elitist? Ah, what the heck. Anyone can do it.) Then she tells me that she showed her work to someone once, (little warning bells jingle in my head)and they told her she wrote like a Dental Hygienist.

Game over. She wasn't writing anymore.

I didn't get it at first. I thought, that's too bad. But it didn't take me long to think, HEY, you ARE a dental hygienist. Who the hell else are you supposed to write like?

When she started reaching for the tools again, I began to babble. Wait! You shouldn't let one comment stop you, write, write, WRITE!!
No good. I was getting that cleaning. sigh.

But seriously, now I not only have anxiety over all the stories I'M not getting to, I have anxiety for all the ones she's not writing. (It's all right, I have more than my share of anxiety.) So, this one, off-handed comment has basically killed the stories before they were even born. (I'm not going there.)

So, maybe we should be more responsible with feedback. Or maybe, she needs a thicker skin to make it as a writer. Maybe she'd never get past the idea of that first rejection letter. But Maybe she would. Maybe she'd wet her feet with friends' comments, build up confidence, find my blog and read all about the joys of having your work trashed...maybe.

It doesn't matter does it? Because even if she didn't ever show those stories to ANYONE. . . she wants to write them. She should write them. There was love in the whispered words, "I already have the stories." It was a secret, a treasured confession...She should write them.

I came home yesterday and my copy of Chris Baty's book, No Plot, No Problem had arrived in my mailbox. He'd signed it (or some wonderful mimic had) with two words. . .Write It!

Amen,
~Frances

4 comments:

Tired of Being Nice said...

Generally when people say that want to write a novel what they are really saying is that they want to be published - and those are two very different things. And no, I don't think anyone can write in a way that captures the imagination enough that people would be willing to pay to read it. But I do think anyone can write their heart. There are many reasons to write - but being published is a business. Somerset Maugham would write every morning, and if nothing inspired him he would write his name over and over and over again. Now there is incentive to come up with something clever to say on paper! Writingwas a job for him and he did the grunt work.

So....yes anyone can write, but not anyone can get published. I think people confuse the two far too often. So if you are called to then do it as if no one was looking. Want to be published, then find your team who will offer you safe, genuine and constructive feedback, access to the publishing world and screw the rest - you will never please everyone. In the meantime - Just write.

Tired of Being Nice said...

Damn it! Where is my editor - that last post has errors! I want an edit button!!!

Frances Pauli said...

lol No worries, we don't allow critiques on comments. ;-)

I agree with you totally that wanting to be published and wanting to write are very, very different things.

But I think of all those years I didn't write, but hoarded my stories for someday, and I feel for people who never break that "hey, I can do it" barrier.

Once the first one was down on paper, then I knew I, not only could do it, but I had to do it. I must write.

Still, for all those years, be it fear, or procrastination, or whatever, I just collected stories and never tried.

Getting a bunch of them sold has been a great bonus, but if I hadn't, I's so still be writing them.

thanks for commenting!

Frances

Tired of Being Nice said...

I should have probably signed my post Victoria, rather than by the name of my blog, but I wasn't thinking - happens a lot. People write for all sorts of reasons, and you are a writer, as you say - "I had to write", getting published may be just the "excuse" if you will. You are also a story teller, I think that is something people are just born to do or they aren't. Sort of like riding horses, meaning if I have to explain it you aren't going to understand it. So write, tell your stories, polish your craft - your audience will come. Victoria